When I heard that Jasper Morrison, king of ‘Super Normal‘ had designed a kitchen for Italian supremos Schiffini, I was, shall we say, super excited. How would his methodology of Japanese influenced simplicity, spareness of material and deliberateness of design translate to something so much larger than any furniture piece he’d crafted before (albeit he did do that tram for the city of Hannover)? In fact, does a kitchen even count as ‘furniture’? Perhaps it ought to be considered architecture. Happily, Schiffini have finally landed in London with a shiny new showroom next to Selfridges, so when they invited me to visit, I was straight in to take a look…
So, The Lepic, a “modular kitchen system” designed for a brand renown for its signature collaboration with Vico Magistretti on the ‘Cinqueterre’, the very first all aluminium kitchen: to me this is a marriage of the functionalism for which arguably both brand and designer have made their names, and the ‘fun’ that our Italian cousins have with kitchens. I say ‘fun’ because I think it’s taking us Brits a while to get up to speed with the enormous creative potential of kitchens.
Kitchens are essentially mini-feats of engineering crafted to accommodate multi machines in daily use. And as the trend for open-plan kitchen/living spaces showing no sign of abating, they’re increasingly becoming a 360 degree design statement too. In other words, as they’re no longer confined to a back room, or even necessarily ranged along an external wall, backs are as important as fronts, the island unit is a must-have, there are an embarrassemnt of riches for the countertop (which often wraps completely around the units) and the biggest dilemma you face is for open or closed shelving. Oh and maybe whether to finally forgo stainless steel and opt for a brass tap instead?!
Enter, The Lepic. And in Jasper’s own words… “When I began the project I looked at other kitchen manufacturers and felt that most of their offerings seemed to be missing the atmosphere that kitchens should have. They were mostly slick and well-designed systems that resulted in a somewhat sterile environment for the chef. I wanted to put the atmosphere of food and cookery back into our kitchen and I chose the name Lepic, as a play on L’Epicure, the enjoyment of food and eating.”
I feel Jasper has captured a key point here. Many kitchen designs are indeed so focused on how well they work, they just aren’t actually very lovely to look at, and considering they’re probably one of the biggest installations in our homes, this is clearly a mistake.
There are exceptions of course. Boffi has customarily used wonderfully tactile materials in its designs (the ‘Duemilaotto‘ with its reclaimed oak table extension, springs to mind), as well as recently showcasing the ‘Cove’, a characteristically aerodynamic number from Zaha Hadid. Not to forget companies like the Sussex-based Custom Fronts who offer hand-crafted doors, handles and tops to fit IKEA units; alongside brands like Superfront who also offer incredible colour/pattern options for standard IKEA ‘Metod’ units.
But back to the Lepic, I asked Jasper to tell me a bit more about his design, starting with how it embodied his over-arching themas of ‘Super Normal’? “I don’t start a project thinking it has to be perfectly Super Normal, because that would probably not help the creative process, but it’s there in the back of my mind and in this case it could be said that there are Super Normal elements like the handles, and the way the kitchen functions with its open shelves, different types of drawers and the functional elements that can be fixed to the splashback panel.”
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